August 2003 Archives

ST Children's Book of the Week

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Times Online - Sunday Times

ST Children's Book of the Week
Ella's Big Chance by Shirley Hughes


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A teenage boy's everyday world sent spinning by parent's affair

"It's rare to find a young-adult novel that's genuinely hard to put down. "Claws" by Will Weaver is such a book."

ACHUKA doesn't find it rare at all. Much rarer in adult fiction (when we get the chance to read it).

That Other Potter Treasure Trove

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Award For Hartnett

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Melbourne writer wins Age prize - Books -

Sonya Hartnett has won The Age Book of the Year for her novel Of a Boy (published in the UK as What The Birds See.
The awards, which are in their 30th year, are worth $10,000 for each category, with a further $10,000 going to the overall book-of-the-year winner. They were presented in theMelbourne Town Hall at the opening of The Age Melbourne Writers Festival, at which the left-wing activist and writer, Tariq Ali, delivered the keynote address...

The link contains a picture of Hartnett with her dog, Shilo.

Site Revamp

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Working full-out to get the site revamp ready for Sep 1st. Niggly things going wrong mid-afternoon with the database connection, but making better progress with everything now.

Calls For Book To Be Withdrawn

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Guardian Unlimited | Special reports | Children's author faces Jewish wrath

previously reported in the Glasgow Herald:

"Jewish pressure groups are calling on a publisher to withdraw a children's book about a Palestinian boy growing up amid the intifada on the West Bank..."

The publisher is Macmillan, and the book is A Little Piece of Ground by Elizabeth Laird.

James Hale

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Guardian Unlimited | The Guardian | James Hale

A blog entry that has a personal poignancy, rather than a children's books relevance. James Hale was the editor of my novel about Melville & Hawthorne, published by Macmillan in 1988.

Film Deal For Ardagh

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Faber have announced that Warner Bros. Pictures has optioned feature film rights to Philip Ardagh's best-selling Eddie Dickens novels in a deal with Circle of Confusion, the production company responsible for the first The Matrix film.

In the US, the Eddie Dickens trilogy is published in hardback by Henry Holt and in audio by Random House?s Listening Library. The first Eddie Dickens book Awful End (A House Called Awful End in America) is about to be launched as a lead paperback for the autumn by Scholastic, US.

Jason Lust of Circle of Confusion is lined-up to co-produce the live-action project with Lawrence Mattis. Philip Ardagh comments, ?I?m delighted by the deal. Eddie?s adventures aren?t the easiest of books to bring to the screen because it?s they way they?re told as much as the action that makes them different, and I very much like Jason?s potential vision of Eddie?s world?.

This film deal comes at a time when Ardagh?s popularity is soaring in the UK and internationally and coincides with the launch of the first of The Further Adventures of Eddie Dickens, with the publication of Dubious Deeds by Faber in hardback in the UK in September.

Sales of the UK edition have now topped 250,000 copies and the Eddie Dickens titles are published in 25 different languages all over the world.

Stephen Page, Chief Executive of Faber and Faber, said ?Ardagh?s talent was obvious from the beginning and we always knew there was strong development potential with the right partner who would understand and be true to Philip?s extraordinary imagination.?

Nobel For J.K.?


The Scotsman - Entertainment- Rowling prize is a Nobel cause

The Scotsman reports that a US author, James Downey, has launched a global internet campaign

to have the Scottish writer nominated for the Nobel Prize for literature. Over to you, as they say.

HP News Aggregator

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News: Adults are spellbound by Harry

While checking for today's news stories, I came across this site for the first time. Don't know how it's eluded me for so long. Extremely useful, especially for Potter fan(atic)s!

Pongo And Bilbo

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Sunday Times

From Pullman?s Oxford to Tolkien?s Shire, Vincent Crump opens the book on five classic children?s tours... (from the ST August 17th)

Gossip Girl

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The new wave in juvenile fiction is a shallow one

GINIA BELLAFANTE of THE NEW YORK TIMES writes about the Gossip Girl series:

"No one feels too much of anything in the "Gossip Girl" books, and rarely does anyone feel very badly, at least for long..."

Reading Survey

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Guardian Unlimited | The Guardian | Reading takes a holiday

Short report of a summer holiday reading survey carried out by W H Smith.

Bob The Builder Challenged

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"Bob the Builder's position as Britain's leading pre-school children's character is being threatened by a farmyard upstart called Tractor Tom...."

ST Children's Book of the Week

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Hodder Revisited

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Following up my comments about Hodder from yesterday, it's only fair to point out that earlier in the year they did publish a funky little teenage catalogue, its denim clad covers packaged in a trendy brown cardboard sleeve. The catalogue included adult titles such as Stephen King's From A Buick 8 alongside Hodder's regular teenage output, such as the Guardian listed Bad Alice by Jean Ure.

Arrived Today

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Oh how I love my site - waking up to it, coming back to it... Just thought I'd let you know! This blog has restrengthened a flame that was starting to flutter. And I am beginning to see the light at the end of a dark, dark tunnel. It has been an arduous year beyond the reading of 700 page long fantasies. We have been busy establishing a backend database which will pave the way for a revamping of the site - due any week now - and have only this week reached the point of catching up with new arrivals. Not quite true. I have about 2 days' worth of reptrospective book-logging to do before moving on to the packets that have arrived this week.

But that's not the point of this post. I thought I'd put my perceptions of publishers' promotional flair to the test by, for a period of time, noting on the blog any special marketing paraphernalia that arrives in ACHUKA's post.

There were 2 things of note this morning:

i) from ORION a package of advance material for Kevin Crossley-Holland's King Of The Middle March, the concluding part of his Arthur trilogy, due in October. The material included a chapter sampler and a Press Pack with "a guide to possible feature and interview angles relating to the Arthur trilogy, as suggested by the author. Relevant page numbers are marked in brackets." Woe to any interviewers who don't do their homework, then.

ii) a sample chapter, cover and press release of the sumptuous looking Dr Eernest Drake's Dragonology, The Complete Book of Dragons from Templar, alsodue in October

Daniel Pennac Interview

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An interview with Daniel Pennac, in The Indpendent. As well as writing adult thrillers, Pennac has written children's books such as Dog and Eye Of The Wolf

"Pennac worked for over 25 years as a teacher, mainly with educationally deprived children, and still accepts every invitation to address classes, whether in nursery schools or ?lite universities. Comme un roman (Like a novel, 1992), his wonderful hymn to the joys of reading, savages the kind of education which puts many off literature for life. It also contains a vivid description of a teacher confronting a group of morose "washed-up" teenagers: the "obligatory rocker", a girl "drowned in her father's shirt", another done up like "a Sicilian widow". Yet as soon as he reads aloud, the class becomes entranced by Calvino, Dostoyevsky, Saki, Stevenson and Wilde..."

CBCA Book of the Year Awards - Winners 2003

Plus comment from
The Mercury
The Age
and (scathing) The Sydney Morning Herald

extracted from Sydney Morning Herald:
"In the Older Readers category, Markus Zusak's The Messenger reads like a pamphlet on good citizenship that might have gone out to all households with their "Be alert" fridge magnet... ...With nauseatingly simplistic morality and prose such as: "It's dark and the streetlights there have been rocked. Only one survives and even that one winks at me. It's light that limps from the globe", this preachy book would seem amateurish anywhere but on a Young Adult list."

Haddon On Booker Longlist

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Mark Haddon's The Curious Incident Of Thje Dog In The Night-Time is one of some 2 dozen titles on the Man Booker Prize longlist, announced today.

The 2003 shortlist will be announced on Tuesday 16 September with the winner announced on Tuesday 14 October at an awards ceremony in the Great Court of the British Museum, London in a live broadcast on BBC TWO and BBC FOUR.



All those who have become familiar with my tastes as a reader will know that I struggle with long fantasies. In that respect, it has been an arduous year. Harry Potter And The Order of the Phoenix, although (for an adult reader) by far the most enjoyable Potter title yet, was still an extraordinarily long book, and I had to read it in a weekend. Cornelia Funke's Inkheart, a different sort of fantasy, is also a long, long read. And Garth Nix's Lirael, in the American paperback edition I was reading before attending the launch dinner at L'Escargot in Greek Street, topped 700 pages.

In the six years that ACHUKA has been online, we have seen the buzz move from one publisher to another. The buzz is difficult to define. It is to some extent capricious. Marketing gurus would have us think that it is all to do with sales. And certainly sans sales, sans buzz. But there are perfectly successful companies that feel, well, rather flat.

Is it just me, or do others find Hodder's promotion of its excellent list a little lacking in razzmatazz? They are very efficient at sending out review copies but seem too content to let the quality of their product do the talking. They haven't latched on to the notion that children's literature is now well-and-truly part of an entertainment industry that feeds on puff and (I'm afraid so) spin. Of course, I stand to be corrected. It's possible that there have been dozens of Hodder promotions and events that ACHUKA hasn't been made aware of, though if that were the case it would, in itself, support my point.
[See comments and also August 16th entry.]

If the buzz is not, currently, with Hodder, it most certainly is with HarperCollins. In today's edition of Publishing News, Jane Friedman, President and CEO, commenting on record operating profits is quoted: "If I had to single out one division, it would have to be Children''s - who had a terrific year with a fantastic programme of books including Sabriel by Garth Nix..."

I never quite saw eye-to-eye with Philip Pullman's enthusiastic covernote: "Sabriel is a winner, a fantasy that reads like realism." To me, it read very much like fantasy and not at all like realism. And the relationship between Sabriel and the damnably annoying Touchstone didn't work for me. But it demonstrably worked for other readers. And Lirael is working much better for me. (No, I still haven't got to the end.) It includes a cricket match, which is a touch of realsim that goes down well. And the banter between Lirael and the (talking) Disreputable Dog is a lot more amusing than the exchanges between Sabriel and Touchstone.

Nix in person is unassuming. He had to be positively cajoled into giving an afterdinner speech. My interest in a writer grows in inverse proportion to their fluency as a public speaker. Impromptu public speaking is not Garth Nix's forte. I am the more interested in what he has to say on the page as a result.

Halfway through the meal he had taken a between-courses stroll to intoduce himself. At my end of the table a somewhat gross and grisly converation about plastic surgery and facial tumours (a subject that fascinated a bookseller, who claimed to have discovered a rather significant error - not connected with surgery - in one of the books longlisted for The Guardian award, a librarian and someone from HarperCollins) had to be temporarily shut down while Nix sympathised with ACHUKA's recent telephone line troubles. He is. this proved, a regular reader of the blog.
[Garth Nix has an official publisher's website
as well as a more personal one]

Sitting on the last train home, (the dreaded 00:005 from Victoria, which last night entailed a bus from Lewes for the last part of the journey) I plugged in my new birthday toy, an Atrac3Plus CDPlayer (really got for the Berlingo, but useful too on long train journeys) which can condense up to 30 audio CDs onto one CD-R, put it on shuffle play, and continued with Lirael. After a while, I switched books to the signed proof copy of Mister Monday, gvien out at the dinner. This is the first book in The Keys To The Kingdom series and will be launched in January 2004, when Nix is due to return to the UK.

I have only read the Prologue. It is a stunning piece of writing. If it sets the tone for the whole series, HarperCollins' buzz is set to go buzzerk.

R4 Link

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This is a link to yesterday's Radio 4 Between Ourselves, in which Jacqueline Wilson and Keith Gray were in discussion...

Gossip Girl Or Green Gables?

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Welcome to PalmBeachPost!

"Teenage girls are growing up, and so are the books they read. Sort of..."

Surfing YA

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U-Redlands Daily Facts - LIFESTYLES

Qucksilver has launched a YA surf-fiction series. American editions, published by Harper Entertainment, are available from Amazon UK:

Since launching its entertainment division, Quiksilver has gone beyond TV production. It's optioning books such as Joy Nicholson's "The Tribes of Palos Verdes" for films, and looking into bio-pics of real surf heroes. It has also launched the "Luna Bay Roxy Girls" series of young-adult surf fiction, which will have five titles by year's end.

Out To Work At 11

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Terry Deary, author of the Horrible Histories, tells the Guardian what he thinks about education (from the Tuesday Education supplement):

"I've no interest in schools," [Deary] continues. "They have no relevance in the 21st century. They were a Victorian idea to get kids off the street. Who decided that putting 30 kids with only their age in common in a classroom with one teacher was the best way of educating? At my school there were 52 kids in the class and all I learned was how to pass the 11-plus. Testing is the death of education.
"Kids should leave school at 11 and go to work

Pass The Tissue

| No Comments | Marketing & PR | Mr Men go corporate

Pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline has sponsored a specially written Mr Men book to promote its anti-allergy syrup Piriton and allergy tablets Piriteze.

Profound? Moi?

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Why are we so haunted by certain characters in children's fiction? Amanda Craig investigates (i.e. she asks her 10 yr old daughter and 8 yr old son):,,1-197-770729,00.html

"When I revisit my heroes and heroines, I feel I reach down not only into my childhood but into what Proust called 'le moi profound', or the deep self.
Perhaps that is why so many adults continue to revisit children's fiction: because in its dark depths we see in it the reflections of all we once were; and still, perhaps, aspire to become."

In this rather bland piece of spacefilling journalese, Craig makes reference to 'Eva Rice's new book' Who's Who In Enid Blyton, in fact a welcome new edition of a book first published 6 years ago:

A slightly more worthwhile read is Craig's review of Ryland's Footsteps by Sally Prue:,,1-1461-766819,00.html

ST Children's Book of the Week

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Times Online

The Fire-Eaters by David Almond

Toni Morrison Book

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Toni Morrison works on kids' book

"Nobel laureate Toni Morrison is working on a children's book about Brown v. Board of Education, the U.S. Supreme Court's landmark ruling against segregation..."

NYT Reviews

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Children's Books in Brief

New York Times review coverage includes a recommendation for Little One Step by Simon James
"Embedding this nugget of Taoist wisdom (''A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step,'' observed Laotzu) in a series of sunny tableaus combining watercolor washes and light, loose ink drawings, James manages to endow his characters with eloquent body language: the oldest sibling is all solicitousness, leaning in to offer advice, and Little One Step is a study in focused intent as he fixates on his feet."

More NYT children's book reviews:

Robert Lowell

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Guardian Unlimited Books | Review | Kingdom of the mad

In the absence of a children's books page in the Review section of The Guardian, I've chosen to cite this review of the eagerly-anticipated, by those of us who rate him one of the best poets of the 20thC, Collected Poems of Robert Lowell.

Save 30% using this link...

Slightly Weirdly

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Slightly weirdly, BT having finally unscrambled the line, I spent the afternoon and evening going through a mountain of newspapers, tearing and scissoring out the cuttings for eventual addition to the database. It needed doing, but site updates needed doing more urgently. Sometimes, though, body & mind decide to disregard the obvious priorites.
Similarly, although I have many many ch.books on the Read Next list, I have begun a Stephen King novel and a Robert Winder cricket book. These high temperatures (mid 30s C - though not at Bexhill beach this afternoon, which was under a grey seagloom) also encourage a back-tunring attitude towards those 'obvious priorities'.

BT Latest

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Our line is still scrambled. This morning's engineer (our 2nd visit - the first was on Saturday) has booked a visit from the 'underground' crew, who may or may not get to us later today, and even if they do, could determine that it's an 'overhead' job, which would mean a further wait.

2 hrs later:
The overhead crew have just been. One engineer went up the hoist, one went down the hole in the ground. And things are working again.

BT Line Scramble

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ACHUKA's BT line is scrambled. We were told this morning that an engineer could not make an onsite visit before Wednesday. In the meantime, updates to the site will be very hit-and-miss, dependent on whether we can get get a connection or not, which in the main (because of the level of crackling interference) is not.

Backlash v. Backlash

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Harry Potter and the ardour of the critiques -

Jane Sullican, in The Age, takes to task some of the HP nay-sayers:

"...what Enid Blyton did for me is precisely what Byatt claims that badly written popular books can never do: they gave me the shiver of awe we feel looking through Keats's "magic casements, opening on the foam/ Of perilous seas, in faery lands forlorn".
Time enough to discover real magic in literature when readers are older. But perhaps with all her adult learning and experience, Byatt has forgotten that for children in particular, Keats's magic casements are often tawdry, fairground things: it's where you get to beyond and what you take with you that counts, and that experience is entirely in the mind of the young reader."

Observer Reviews

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The Observer, Sunday August 3rd, carried the following children's books reviews:

Picture Books reviewed by Stephanie Merritt:,6903,1011254,00.html

Teenage Books reviewed by Kit Spring:,6903,1011259,00.html

Audiobooks reviewed by Kate Kellaway:,6903,1011257,00.html

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